"That day during the Autumn Close Festival when he rejected Tuoba Yan with such words, wasn't it the same as him rejecting Xiang Shu?"
Editor(s): juurensha, namio
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King Akele became the only mortal who witnessed this battle between the drought fiends and the dead bones. The scene was extremely weird; there was nobody shouting "Attack!", only them biting and tearing each other apart.
When Youduo seized an opportunity to flee the battlefield temporarily, Zhou Zhen actually abandoned the altar on the island to personally give him chase. King Akele, who had been seriously injured then, tried his best to go to Karakorum where he finally fell unconscious among the thickets in the wilderness.
"Save Youduo," King Akele pleaded.
Xiang Shu frowned as he replied, "We have already sent scouts to search the wilderness."
King Akele slightly nodded and fell into a deep sleep. Chen Xing knew that this wave of sleepiness was the effect of the medicine, and so, the two of them just let him have a good rest. After giving instructions to the guards, Xiang Shu returned to the resting hall with Chen Xing.
The sky had already gone dark. After dinner, Chen Xing saw that Xiang Shu couldn't sit still, and he himself was also a bit anxious.
"The thing Zhou Zhen was guarding, what could it be?" Xiang Shu asked, his brows furrowing.
Chen Xing was also at his wits' end. According to King Akele's description, what Zhou Zhen had been personally guarding must be a very important thing. With approximately a zhang in length and about six or seven chi in height, it was put on the altar looking just like a small mound. Maybe it was a carcass of some kind of animal? But now that Wang Ziye already has a legion of dead animals under his control, what else is Zhou Zhen preparing for?
"Maybe it's the remains of a yao beast," Chen Xing conjectured. "It's most likely going to be used to deal with Karakorum."
When he saw Xiang Shu rise, Chen Xing hurriedly said, "You sit down first. I know that you are anxious about your clansmen, but right now, it's already pitch-dark. Where are you going to look?"
"What kind of yao beast?" Xiang Shu looked at Chen Xing.
"I don't know..." Chen Xing frowned. "Coincidentally, Xiao Shan and Sima Wei went in the direction where the Akele people are located, so maybe they can discover something. Xiang Shu, your clansmen need you. You must not, absolutely must not leave Karakorum right now. Just don't go anywhere, promise me."
Che Luofeng getting corrupted the first time around was a scar Chen Xing couldn't get rid of and had made him imagine all sorts of things. However, as long as Lu Ying was still safe and sound, Chen Xing would rather stay where he was and wait for Zhou Zhen to come and attack the city. After going through the drought fiend chaos in Chang'an, Wang Ziye should be in dire need to fill the new army, and tens of thousands of brave and heroic Hu cavalry inside the city were practically the highest quality of supplementary materials for the drought fiend army.
When Xiang Shu heard this sentence, he suddenly felt something and fixed his gaze on Chen Xing.
Chen Xing: "?"
Chen Xing, however, didn't notice his gaze and continued analyzing, "Based on the description, the animal couldn't have been too big. Zhou Zhen has probably dug up the bones of some kind of yao beast from its burial site. The Silence of All Magic lasted for quite a long time, the northern land surely also had had a lot of yaoguai before... Though I am quite positive that our opponent is not a dragon, it's too small to be one."
Still distracted, Xiang Shu just replied with a hum. Chen Xing was already slightly tired. From the moment they returned to the city, the weather kept getting colder and colder at a speed visible to the naked eye; the temperature was quickly dropping as autumn got nearer, and the wind, which was rather bone-chilling, passed through the palace hall.
"Sleep ba," said Xiang Shu.
Inside the palace, there was only one room cleaned out, and furthermore, nobody had lived in it for nearly a hundred years. Since Chen Xing was already used to living in a tent with Xiang Shu, he just took off his clothes and lay down on the simple floor.
"You go sleep too ba," Chen Xing said. "Along the journey, you're the one who should've been tired the most. Moreover, after we've arrived in Karakorum, you also did so many things non-stop."
After entering Chi Le Chuan, Xiang Shu's mind had been tense the entire time, and only after he had entered the city did it gradually loosen up. Yesterday, he had first called in all divisions for a meeting. He had been busy all night long before finally falling asleep leaning against a corner of the palace, and only this evening was he finally able to lie down to have a good night's rest. With that, he also took off his clothes and went to lie down next to Chen Xing.
"It'll be very cold at night," said Xiang Shu. "Cold waves will hit, you need to add another quilt."
And thus, Chen Xing stacked two quilts on top of each other and moved closer to Xiang Shu. At this time, he suddenly realized that along the road, besides during their stay in Chang'an, they had been sleeping together the entire time; this was probably the so-called "going out on the same carriage and sitting on the same seat." While the Hus might not mind this kind of behavior that much, for the Hans, only those who were childhood friends or those who had a deep relationship would do this kind of thing.
Xiang Shu gave a look at Chen Xing, signaling him to get more sleep. Not long after lying down, as bone-chilling wind leaked in from all sides, Xiang Shu restlessly shot a glance outside the room.
The wind was getting stronger and stronger, producing a wave of whooshing sounds as it tossed about the tightly closed doors and windows, and the lights in the hall kept flickering on and off. It was the complete opposite of the situation in Fu Jian's luxurious palace.
"Life outside the Great Wall is difficult," Xiang Shu suddenly said, "it's very different compared to Chang'an. Make do with it ba."
Chen Xing, immersed in his thoughts, stared at the dome illuminated by the lights. The golden-colored paint had long since faded, yet he could still vaguely see traces of the former, glorious Xiongnu palace of Longcheng during its golden age.
When he heard Chen Xing suddenly laugh, Xiang Shu tilted his head and shot him a baffled look. As the two people's gazes met, Chen Xing's face flushed somewhat red.
"Why," after pondering for a while, Chen Xing asked, "did you guys choose to live in Chi Le Chuan instead of moving to Karakorum ne?"
Chen Xing recalled that the Shulü family had a lot of money; if they had wanted to move to Karakorum and properly renovate the palace, they surely would then have a fixed place to stay and would not need to live a nomadic lifestyle anymore.
Xiang Shu replied, "Climate reasons."
Chen Xing let out an "ahh." After moving uncomfortably under his quilt for a moment, Xiang Shu simply lay on his side facing Chen Xing. The other party, whose heart was currently skipping over, also turned his body sideways and used his own arm as a pillow.
That was how the two of them, face-to-face, ended up gazing at each other.
Looking at Chen Xing in the eyes, Xiang Shu said in a focused manner, "In the land beyond the Great Wall, some periods can become very, very cold, even accompanied by snowstorms; we called the worst of them all the 'cold year.' During that time, we can have up to seven or eight months in a year where we are unable to herd livestock."
"Ah..." Chen Xing was completely astonished.
"Quite a number of livestock will freeze to death at that time..." Adjusting his posture, Xiang Shu followed Chen Xing's act of pillowing his arm and bent his knees. As he did this, his bare foot under the quilt accidentally bumped against Chen Xing. Not only was Xiang Shu's foot big, but it was also very warm; the scorching heat emanating from his whole body made Chen Xing, who was brought inside its radius, feel warm amidst this bitterly cold weather.
"...The river will freeze over, and the glacier will fall below the snow line," Xiang Shu said, immersed in his thoughts. "Hardly any birds will fly in the sky then. During the coldest period, even wild geese won't fly over the Great Wall."
"Is that so..." Chen Xing actually had no idea about all this.
"That was why Liu Yuan crossed the Great Wall and traversed the pass 80 years ago with an intention to plunder," Xiang Shu continued. "The Xiongnus were the first ones unable to survive in such an environment. Furthermore, Karakorum is located in the wind gap of what had once been a wide river. Once a strong wind blows over, the cold will be as harsh as it is today. It's not suitable for a long stay."
Chen Xing said, "Only Chi Le Chuan, which is flanked by mountain ranges on three sides, can withstand the cold."
"En," Xiang Shu affirmed. "They all wanted to move to the South and traverse the pass to plunder you Han people."
Chen Xing quietly looked at Xiang Shu before asking, "Do you want to?"
"What do you think?" Xiang Shu was slightly unhappy when he heard this and questioned him back.
Chen Xing: "What I asked was 'Do you want to go to the South?' not 'Do you want to go plunder?'"
Xiang Shu: "......"
Chen Xing: "I naturally know that you're not that kind of person."
He could sense that Xiang Shu also liked the South.
"In the future, I will take you to Jiankang," said Chen Xing. "It will be completely different than the South you have seen before."
"How can you be so sure that I will follow you?" Xiang Shu casually asked him. "Guwang, as the Great Chanyu, has to support many of his clansmen. It is not possible to just walk away from all that."
Chen Xing said, "You can just come as a guest."
Xiang Shu: "Isn't your family in Jinyang?"
Chen Xing pondered for a while and was about to give him an explanation when Xiang Shu suddenly moved his left hand and exposed his little finger outside the quilt, causing Chen Xing to smile and hook his finger in return.
Xiang Shu looked at Chen Xing in the eyes as he said, "Your eyes are black, just like my mother's."
"Aren't yours too?" said Chen Xing. "Your eyes- ah! You have a hint of gold in your eyes!"
Chen Xing had paid little to no attention to this before, but since the two of them were very close at this moment, he discovered that Xiang Shu's inner pupils carried a touch of golden brown color, which was simply impossible to notice unless one was looking at them closely.
Xiang Shu's breathing became more labored as Chen Xing leaned in closer. Lowering his eyes, he focused on Chen Xing's lips, yet after a moment, Chen Xing's gaze caused him to feel slightly embarrassed. He then closed his eyes and turned sideways before putting his hand on his chest as he said, "Sleep ba."
Shifting closer to Xiang Shu, Chen Xing leaned against his shoulder, and Xiang Shu, unlike before, actually took the initiative to wrap his arm around him. Still, the wind outside the palace sounded exactly like the sea breeze on the ship that day. As the wind blew over, Chen Xing couldn't help but feel a ripple in his heart.
Chen Xing, who really wanted to move even closer to plant a kiss on the side of Xiang Shu's face, practically exhausted all of his strength just to restrain acting upon this idea blooming in his heart. Things that had happened before seemed to be a mere dream of a fleeting life, yet all of them had indeed occurred, albeit a lifetime ago. Chen Xing didn't know when exactly Xiang Shu began to have this feeling during their previous lives, but what King Akele had said today truly had given him a great shock.
So Xiang Shu, just like Tuoba Yan, had been looking forward to having a Han lover? That day during the Autumn Close Festival when he rejected Tuoba Yan with such words, wasn't it the same as him rejecting Xiang Shu?
If he could turn back time, Chen Xing would certainly make it clear that it was not like that aaaaaaaaaaaah!! And now, he wanted to give him a kiss to the point that he was even ready to face the consequences of being beaten up. Just give it a go, no need to say anything else —— he would let Xiang Shu make his choice afterward. But in the end, Chen Xing still didn’t dare to make any move, and could only hate how he had become a coward yet again.
"I dreamt about many things," Xiang Shu, completely unaware of Chen Xing's many thoughts, suddenly said.
"Huh?" Chen Xing had just made up his mind and was currently closing the distance between them when Xiang Shu's words interrupted his train of thought.
Still with his eyes closed, Xiang Shu, whose eyelashes slightly glimmered under the faint light, continued to say, "The dream wasn't very on-point; they were like the dreams I had when I was inside the dungeon. It’s just that when I recall it, it feels as if it had happened even earlier. I can't remember it clearly, so I can't say for sure."
"What did you see in your dream?" Chen Xing asked.
"A lot of things" Opening his eyes that were full of doubt, Xiang Shu turned to look at Chen Xing. "I dreamt that for some reason, I was chasing after you. I left Chi Le Chuan, but when I came back, it had already been burned down..."
Chen Xing: "!!!"
"I also dreamt that under Chi Le Chuan's ancient tree of oath of affection," Xiang Shu continued, "on that day after the Autumn Close Festival when the snow was falling, you were also in Chi Le Chuan."
Chen Xing's heart beat faster and faster. He remembered! Will he be able to remember everything?!
Chen Xing dared not interrupt Xiang Shu and just let him recall his memories. Perhaps, in this dark night with roaring cold winds to keep them company, Xiang Shu would suddenly be enlightened and would be able to recall all kinds of past events!
But after waiting for a long time without hearing Xiang Shu's reply, Chen Xing slowly and cautiously probed, "What else ne?"
Xiang Shu thought out loud, "I also dreamt that Tuoba Yan gave you a ring. What exactly is going on?"
Chen Xing thought, It's really okay if you remember other matters. Just how could it be, even after living another lifetime, you still can't forget eating vinegar from Tuoba Yan?
"When I was a child, my mother once said," after thinking for a moment, Xiang Shu said, "that in the northern land, there lived a deer god that guarded all dreams in this land under heaven. I don't know, maybe if I can find it, I can ask it for a clear answer... Forget it, let's talk about it again when we have a chance ba."
Chen Xing recalled that Murong Chong's story was also related to "dreams". When one's memory was clear, people would be able to remember the past, but when it was blurred, it would become a mere dream. Maybe Lu Ying can really solve it?
The wind was getting stronger and stronger, and it felt comfortable to drift to sleep accompanied by its sound. Chen Xing, who had been running around for days, very soon fell asleep, and Xiang Shu was also no different. However, just before dawn, a loud clamor woke them up.
"We have caught a spy!" yelled someone on the outside.
Xiang Shu sat up at once, but Chen Xing's eyes were still bleary. A scout entered the room and saw the state of two men who had just gotten up: Xiang Shu, half-naked, was blocking Chen Xing behind him. He immediately dared not look much and rushing to bow, he reported, "Great Chanyu, we caught this guy in Chi Le Chuan."
And thus, a trussed-up Tuoba Yan was brought in.
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This chapter is migrated and/or formatted by our fellow chicken enthusiast(s), Elestrea.